Sunday, October 24, 2010

God will not be distracted

I reconnected recently with a friend. It's been about 8 years since we spoke and now she lives in one city and I in an other. It happened 'accidentally' when she selected my name on Facebook instead of someone with a very similar name.

We started trading emails back and forth, reminiscing of days past and people we knew; some who've died, others we've both lost touch with,others who one or the other of us has kept in touch with. We've been updating each other, filling in blanks, sharing memories and news.

As we talked we also shared our favorite poems and quotes and one I mentioned was from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, titled 'Separation from Those we Love'.

I realized, when I searched for it to share with my friend, that I had only ever known part of the writing - the part he called 'first' - but there are three more parts to it of which I wasn't aware. Three parts which contain a powerful message, particularly valuable to me at this point in my life. I'd always thought of this writing as being about death and, in fact, had used it when my dad died. But when you read all four parts it becomes apparent that it can also be about the loss of friendship and that is what I dealt with this past summer.

My friend wrote in one communication "I believe in no accidents in life" and I think perhaps she's right. Perhaps it was not an accident that we reconnected, that I searched for and discovered something that is reassuring and comforting, that I have a rekindled friendship just as one has faded away.

I believe that there are no coincidences - that a coincidence is, in actuality, God's way of trying to get our attention. I think that's what this all is. 

Here's the treatise in its entirety

Separation from Those we Love

First: nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute; we must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bonds between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he doesn’t fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain.

Secondly: the dearer and richer our memories, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy. The beauties of the past are borne, not as a thorn in the flesh, but as a precious gift in themselves. We must take care not to wallow in our memories or hand ourselves over to them, just as we do not gaze all the time at a valuable present, but only at special times, and apart from these keep it simply as a hidden treasure that is ours for certain. In this way the past gives us lasting joy and strength.

Thirdly: times of separation are not a total loss or unprofitable for our companionship, or at any rate they need not be so. In spite of all the difficulties that they bring, they can be the means of strengthening fellowship quite remarkably.

Fourthly: I’ve learnt here especially that the facts can always be mastered, and that difficulties are magnified out of all proportion simply by fear and anxiety. From the moment we wake until we fall asleep we must commend other people wholly and unreservedly to God and leave them in his hands, and transform our anxiety for them into prayers on their behalf:

With sorrow and with grief…

God will not be distracted.

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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